The always original Reed (Seven for the Apocalypse, 1999, etc.) perceptively probes that point where reality and the virtual converge as a young married professional woman finds herself more alive and in love when she meets her anonymous lover online each night.
Psychologist Jennie Wilder is newly married to Marine colonel Charlie, a widower with two children. Life in the southern town near his base is boring to a New Yorker like Jennie, who's also having problems with the kids. To pass the hours of Charlie's frequent absences, she surfs the Web, where one night she discovers the fantasy Island of StElene. Entranced with the clever talk about politics, sex, and anything else that engages the anonymous guests, Jenny is soon hooked, and becomes an authorized guest herself under the name Zan. As an only child, Jenny escaped reality by reading; now she finds visiting StElene like going to live in a richly imagined book. StElene's, she realizes, is a place where "you are what you type," and people assume identities that hide the realities of their often pathetic lives. Lark, a troubled teenage loner whose real name is Hubert, is eloquent and gregarious; dowdy Florence becomes sexy warrior woman Mireya; and her online lover is gorgeous hunk Azeath, not Vinnie, a convicted murderer. Jenny soon falls in love with sympathetic Reverdy, the godlike creator of new scenarios and effects. As time passes, she begins to live for her nights online, and soon realizes she is as much in love with her virtual prince as with her real husband. When reality, drab and problematic, threatens her e-idyll, Jenny, with Lark in tow, sets off to find the real but elusive Reverdy, with regrettably predictable results.
A generally engaging tale that demonstrates—without preaching—the pitfalls of virtual romance in a place where no one can hurt you and everybody turns out to be somebody.